Forward lines are:
Oilers forward Zack Kassian makes his return to Montreal for the first time since being traded in late December in exchange for Ben Scrivens. Kassian describes his time in Montreal as a turning point in his career despite never having suited up in a regular season game for the team.
“I never really sat down and thought about repercussions, what I was doing or who I was affecting or how it was affecting my career,” he said after practice at the Bell Centre on Friday. “That accident really was an eyeopener for me. At the time obviously it was very tough to handle. I embarrassed my family, my friends and the organization. But when something like that happens you really have to look at yourself in the mirror.”
The accident Kassian speaks of was an early-morning vehicle accident where he was a passenger in which he broke his nose and foot. He entered Stage Two of the Substance Abuse and Behavioral Health Program (SABH) of the NHL and NHLPA shortly afterwards.
“I felt like that was my rock bottom. Sometimes they talk about that, you have to hit a rock bottom to really grasp the concept of what you’re doing. I felt like that was my rock bottom and I didn’t want to go back there.”
Kassian has used that feeling of rock bottom to help guide himself and make the right choices but hasn't let it change who he is.
“I’m still the same person. I know what’s at stake and I know what I have and I have to stay on top of it. But I’m still the same guy in the room, the same guy on the ice. It’s just me growing up.”
Oilers forward Matt Hendricks has been shifted to the middle between Lauri Korpikoski and Iiro Pakarinen. So far, the trio has enjoyed some success particularly last game in Ottawa when they combined for four points.
Hendricks was asked about his on-ice success with the two Finns.
“First off, I’m playing with two great guys in Lauri and Iiro. They’re both very defence-orientated where they can help protect me in the middle a bit. I’m still getting my feet wet, getting used to playing a new position I haven’t played in awhile. They’re protecting me and helping me with net-front coverage in the defensive zone.”
The three players have been a force both offensively and defensively. Even when not putting up points on the scoresheet, they've pinned the opposition deep in their own end for lengthy periods of time which naturally has positive effects.
“They’re both skilled. They both like to make plays, they both like to shoot the puck. And they’re hard to play against down low in the offensive zone. Team defenders have a hard time staying on them and staying with them.”
Hendricks was asked if he's been brushing up on his Finnish now that he's playing with the two players from Finland.
“I look at them and ask, ‘what are you guys talking about? I’m not that bad, am I?’ and they start laughing. It’s all good. We’re having a good time together right now.”
Korpikoski laughed when asked about the foreign language speak between himself and Pakarinen.
“It’s better that me and Iiro talk finish and keep him on the outside. He doesn’t know what’s going on, it’s better that way,” Korpikoski remarked.
Forward lines today are:
Lander rotating in down the middle.
The defence pairings have changed:
The Oilers are on the ice for an optional morning skate at Canadian Tire Centre in Ottawa.
Forwards on the ice are: Hall, Draisiatl, McDavid, Eberle, Yakupov, Pakarinen and Lander
Not on the ice: Pouliot, Hendricks, Kassian, Letestu, Korpikoski
Defencemen on the ice: Fayne, Gryba, Clendening, Davidson, Schultz, Reinhart and Nurse
Defencemen not on the ice: Sekera
Cam Talbot will start tonight in goal.
The Oilers came back to the ice on Monday after an extended all-star break which saw them off the ice for a full seven days -- longer than any other NHL team.
“I don’t even think Ebs and I have played a shift together before," said McDavid." This will be a little bit different for us. There’ll be an adjustment period. I’m definitely excited to play with a player like Jordan.”
Eberle was injured in the pre-season and did not return until after McDavid went down in early November with his collarbone injury.
“Everyone knows what he’s like around the net. He’s got quick, great hands and a deceiving shot. You know if you get the puck in a good spot he’s going to finish it.”
Eberle was also excited to play with McDavid.
“I think with Nuge going down, we knew we were getting Connor back and I thought there was a chance me and (Pouliot) would get a chance with him,” Eberle began. “It’s been funny the way the year’s gone, I came back the day he got injured. I haven’t even been on the ice with him, even in exhibition. It’s good to get out there and practice. We had an intense skate today, got our wind back a little bit and hopefully we find some chemistry tomorrow.”
Midway through the final period of the final game, the NHL announced three options to fans to vote for MVP. One was Johnny Gaudreau, one was Roberto Luongo and one was Taylor Hall.
Hall was glad that in the end it was the write-in candidate that was victorious: John Scott.
“We were all really happy for him and pulling for him. For him to have his family here, his wife and to win MVP. I think they can use that car. Just a great experience,” Hall stated.
The Oilers winger felt that the entire experience was one to remember and in the end the tournament format lent itself to quite a bit of competitive hockey.
“It was a ton of fun. The city of Nashville, their fans were awesome. Just being around the guys and being able to experience the whole all-star event was a whole lot of fun. And to win to top it off is great.
“I thought we were trying pretty hard. We managed to get a few breakaways and two-on-ones. The goalies played huge. It was great to see John Scott score a couple goals and chip in.”
When asked what he'll remember most from his first NHL All-Star Weekend as a participant, Hall didn't hesitate.
“The win. John Scott winning MVP, being around him for the weekend and seeing what that was like. My first all-star game, I don’t think you can ever forget that.”
One of the more interesting storylines of the day was the three-man unit that Pacific Division head coach Darryl Sutter designed which had Calgary Flames defenceman Mark Giordano and Flames forward Johnny Gaudreau skating with Oilers forward Taylor Hall.
“It’s funny that Darryl put us together. Two great players," said Hall after the game. "Gaudreau makes everyone around him better and Giordano was just as competitive as a real game. It was a lot of fun playing with those guys. To score a couple goals in an all-star game was pretty cool.”
Hall had two goals and an assist while Johnny Gaudreau had a goal and two helpers. Gaudreau also enjoyed playing with Hall.
“It was cool. We get to play against each other all the time with the Battle of Alberta and how exciting that is. It’s just nice to have him on our side for once because you can see how skilled he is,” said Gaudreau.
Mark Giordano had an assist as well as the third man on the unit. He talked about Hall and Gaudreau playing together.
“It was pretty impressive how much chemistry him and Johnny seemed to have right from the first shift. I don’t know how the fans reacted to it back home but it was pretty cool for tonight, to get the win.”
Corey Perry scored the lone goal in an outstanding capper to the NHL's three-on-three tournament at the All-Star Game as Team Pacific defeated Team Atlantic by a score of 1-0. John Scott, with two goals in the first game, won the MVP award.
Late in the first period, Luongo made a nice save on Joe Pavelski who was right on the doorstep as the game remained tied 0-0.
After one, the game remained scoreless. Shots were 12-10 for Pacific.
The first goal of the game finally came 3:38 into the second period. Daniel Sedin fed the puck over to Corey Perry whose wrist shot beat Ben Bishop, putting Pacific ahead 1-0.
Gaudreau was denied on a breakaway with 4:30 to play. He then set up Doughty for a chance but Doughty was stopped on his backhand attempt.
Perry looked to have scored his second of the game with 2:53 to go on a nifty wrist shot, picking the top corner on Bishop. Hall provided the screen in front on the goal. The play went under review to see if Hall had interfered with Bishop and ultimately it was ruled that he did. Game remained 1-0.
Atlantic Division called a timeout with 1:23 to play. Shots were even at 16-16 and their goaltender was pulled.
Taylor Hall had two goals and an assist and John Scott had a pair of goals to help lead Team Pacific to a 9-6 win over Team Central. With the win, Team Pacific advances to the final to play Team Atlantic.
Taylor Hall's first shift came right after the Scott goal. Hall was playing on a line with two Calgary Flames: Mark Giordano and Johnny Gaudreau.
Hall and Gaudreau broke in behind the Central defence and nearly scored. Hall dished the puck to Gaudreau but Pekka Rinne made a nice stop.
Rinne received a penalty for playing the puck outside of the trapezoid, resulting in the first power play of the day.
On the man advantage, Pacific converted for a goal to take the lead. Pavelski picked up a rebound and hammered it home past Rinne to make it 2-1 for the white side.
With 1:59 to go in the first, James Neal scored his second of the game, going five-hole on Jonathan Quick to knot the game at 2-2.
16 seconds later, Hall made a brilliant pass up to Gaudreau and Giordano, sending the two Flames alone on a two-on-none. Gaudreau picked the top corner to put Pacific back in the lead.
Scott pushed Patrick Kane aside and created a breakaway attempt. However, it was Kane who tied it with 33 seconds to go in the first not long after that. After scoring, Kane jokingly dropped his gloves and went after Scott in a mock fight.
It was tied 3-3 after one with Pacific leading 8-7 on the shot clock.
Daniel Sedin's goal 1:49 into the second period put Pacific Division back in the lead.
On a breakaway, John Scott scored with 6:33 to play. He wired a shot glove side on Devan Dubnyk to extend Pacific's lead to 5-3.
Taylor Hall worked a give-and-go with Johnny Gaudreau to make it a 6-3 lead for Pacific with 5:56 to go.
Daniel Sedin made it 7-3 on a scramble in front of the Central goal but then the black team responded with two quick goals, by Tyler Seguin and Dustin Byfuglien, to narrow the gap to 7-5.
After a brilliant save by Gibson, Gaudreau and Hall broke in a two-on-none. Gaudreau dropped the puck back to Hall who scored on Dubnyk with a nifty move.
Doughty netted an empty netter with 1:15 to go to make it 9-5. Nine seconds later, Central scored to narrow the gap to three once again on a blast by Roman Josi.
Final shot count in the game was 22-17 for Pacific.